QB Index, Week 8: Carson Wentz sparking MVP chatter

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Carson Wentz's emergence Monday night from a mosh pit of Redskins into an open field of premature awards talk was most impressive because of what came next.

Wentz's Houdini act is nothing new to Eagles fans. He pulls off a few escapes every week that require banging the rewind button on the DVR remote. However, it's his improvement on all the meat-and-potato snaps that has keyed the second-year signal caller's breakout month. This ho-hum stuff might not appear on his season-ending highlight reel, but Wentz's four straight completions after that play, including a touchdown, speak more to his staying power.

One of those throws was a beautiful touch pass to Alshon Jeffery after a pump fake, with the ball placed perfectly over Jeffery's outside shoulder. Wentz had a run-pass option on the next play, as he pulled the ball out of the belly of running back LeGarrette Blount before darting a pass to Zach Ertz. The ensuing touchdown throw came after Wentz correctly read the Redskins' zone defense before the snap and audibled to a play-action pass to Nelson Agholor. It's Wentz show now.

His nascent MVP campaign got a huge boost because his best two games of the season came in back-to-back prime-time efforts. The Eagles' passing game lacked rhythm in the season's first month, with flashes of brilliance and progress mixed in with erratic accuracy and some loose throws. Compared to Tom Brady and Alex Smith, Wentz wasn't required to do too much in September to help his team win. That helps explain why Wentz is No. 3 in this week's QB Index, which is based on an average game score I compile each week that combines Game Pass viewing and witchcraft.

Much of Wentz's brilliance defies analytics. He's box office gold, a player who requires you to watch until the play is officially over, especially if it looks over. He's exactly what this season needs.

This is the Quarterback Index. The QBs are ranked based on 2017 play only. The next ranking of all 32 starters comes after Week 8.

1
Tom Brady
QB
Patriots

The Patriots' offense is starting to look more familiar. Brady has been less reliant on spectacular deep throws the last two weeks and more in rhythm with his receivers, showing improved timing with Brandin Cooks.

2017 stats: 7 games | 66.4 pct | 2,208 pass yds | 8.4 ypa | 15 pass TD | 2 INT

2
Alex Smith
QB
Chiefs

It's Week 8 and there will be tweets saying that Carson Wentz -- not Alex Smith -- should be ranked as the No. 2 quarterback of the season. This would have been difficult to imagine in August.

2017 stats: 7 games | 72.4 pct | 1,979 pass yds | 8.7 ypa | 15 pass TD | 0 INT | 121 rush yds | 1 rush TD

3
Carson Wentz
QB
Eagles

According to Next Gen Stats, Wentz's bomb to Mack Hollins traveled 62.8 yards of raw distance, the longest of any touchdown over the last two years. ( Thanks Matt Harmon, keeper of the Next Gen flame.)

2017 stats: 7 games | 61.6 pct | 1,852 pass yds | 8.0 ypa | 17 pass TD | 4 INT | 196 rush yds | 0 rush TD

4
Russell Wilson
QB
Seahawks

Wilson's most complete game of the season included more plays from inside the pocket, including this gorgeous 32-yard gainer to Doug Baldwin, thrown just before Wilson got leveled. This performance coming after the bye week should give Seahawks fans a big boost of hope.

2017 stats: 6 games | 63.6 pct | 1,556 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 11 pass TD | 3 INT | 164 rush yds | 1 rush TD

5
Drew Brees
QB
Saints

With more screen passes and reliance on the running game, the Saints' offense is evolving into a far more risk-averse attack. This is what happens when your organization fields a defense.

2017 stats: 6 games | 69.1 pct | 1,652 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 11 pass TD | 4 INT | 1 rush TD

6
Dak Prescott
QB
Cowboys

The quarterback class of 2016 has a chance to turn out pretty fantastic if Wentz, Prescott and Jared Goff continue on their current trajectories. Sunday's win against the 49ers was a 2016 Prescott special, with only a handful of great throws required to put up 40 points.

2017 stats: 6 games | 62.7 pct | 1,426 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 14 pass TD | 4 INT | 152 rush yds | 3 rush TD

7
Tyrod Taylor
QB
Bills

Tiers would be helpful here because there is a major drop-off from sixth to seventh, and the rest of the top 15 is incredibly bunched-up. Taylor's the perfect quarterback for this talent-starved Bills offense. On third-and-10, Taylor runs for 26 yards. On third-and-14, he hits a pass rusher with a crossover step that Allen Iverson would be jealous of before a tossing a 32-yard gainer to Nick O'Leary. Given more than three minutes to tie a game late, Taylor has a 44-yard, drive-starting bomb to recent pickup Deonte Thompson. This fuels a touchdown drive that takes less than a minute, setting up another comeback victory for Buffalo.

2017 stats: 6 games | 62.1 pct | 1,178 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 7 pass TD | 2 INT | 174 rush yds | 0 rush TD

8
Marcus Mariota
QB
Titans

Mariota deserves credit for playing well through injury. Expect a better Titans offense after the team's bye.

2017 stats: 6 games | 62.5 pct | 1,301 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 4 pass TD | 4 INT | 124 rush yds | 3 rush TD

9
Matt Ryan
QB
Falcons

The easy completions are gone. The Falcons made 18-yard throws look like handoffs last season, but this year's scheme is requiring Ryan to make far more passes into tight windows. He missed a few open plays in the red zone against the Patriots that would have likely been completed a year ago.

2017 stats: 6 games | 66.5 pct | 1,590 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 7 pass TD | 6 INT | 63 rush yds | 0 rush TD

10
Cam Newton
QB
Panthers

Newton's season has looked like a polygraph test gone wrong. His individual performance against Chicago wasn't as bad as the final score indicated, but what happened to his purportedly improved pass protection or the plan to keep him from running? When the Panthers need a first down, they still look to Newton, their leading rusher in each of the last two weeks.

2017 stats: 7 games | 64.1 pct | 1,687 pass yds | 7.3 ypa | 9 pass TD | 10 INT | 211 rush yds | 3 rush TD

11
Kirk Cousins
QB
Redskins

If I threw out Cousins' first two games, he would be approaching top-six status. But two games is a large part of a six-game sample, so Cousins' solid October play only boosts him into the top 12. While his wideouts could help him out more often, Cousins' biggest issue at present is taking the checkdown pass on long-yardage situations before pass-rush pressure arrives.

2017 stats: 6 games | 68.2 pct | 1,637 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 12 pass TD | 3 INT | 121 rush yds | 1 rush TD

12
Derek Carr
QB
Raiders

A strange season for Carr now has three excellent performances, a few lackluster efforts and an injury. Carr's late-game heroics against Kansas City could ignite the Raiders' 2016 magic, although it's worth noting Carr was fortunate to avoid a few interceptions and a lost fumble early in the game.

2017 stats: 6 games | 64.9 pct | 1,341 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 11 pass TD | 4 INT

13
Deshaun Watson
QB
Texans

If you are curious why Watson isn't higher, this article by Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo neatly summarizes many of the scribbles from my notebook. The short version: For all the great moments, Watson hasn't been consistently accurate and he's been lucky to get away with many plays that should have been turnovers. This is not a knock. It's absolutely incredible for a rookie to play like an above-average starting quarterback, and Watson's wow plays and heady feel for the game are special.

2017 stats: 6 games | 61.5 pct | 1,297 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 15 pass TD | 5 INT | 202 rush yds | 2 rush TD

14
Ben Roethlisberger
QB
Steelers

Game Manager Ben is going to take time to get used to.

2017 stats: 7 games | 61.9 pct | 1,745 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 9 pass TD | 8 INT

15
Philip Rivers
QB
Chargers

Rivers still operates like a top-10 quarterback when given a clean pocket, but his trademark ability to spin magic in the face of pressure could be waning.

2017 stats: 7 games | 60.9 pct | 1,816 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 12 pass TD | 5 INT

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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